Q: He's been more pragmatic, less deferential, when it comes to Israel. Is that a problem for you?
A: I think his position on Israel should be examined carefully. There are people that feel Israel is a sore spot, that if it went away we'd get along with the Muslim world -- this sort of unrealistic thinking. I hope Chuck doesn't have this view. I doubt that he does. The message he's sending is a dangerous message. It suggests the United States is less than committed to Israel, which can embolden the people who want to wipe it off the map.
Q: Could you support Hagel?
A: He'll come before my committee. I'm prepared to let him have an opportunity to speak. I am concerned, particularly on the nuclear question.
Q: So you haven't made up your mind on Hagel?
A: I think that's fair to say. I know him and I've served with him. We disagreed on a number of things. I didn't realize how much Chuck's defense and military policies have changed since what I think they were when he came to the Senate. He's also been open to cuts in defense spending. I want to know what he means. We've already reduced defense spending $500 billion. The sequester would take away another $500 billion. I want to know where Chuck is on this. I don't think we should take another $500 billion. I know we shouldn't take more big cuts right now in defense, because it's so disruptive. You have to immediately lay off people, you cancel contracts, pay penalties for canceling contracts, you stop procuring systems that you built your whole plan around. We have to be careful about that. I want to know where he is on that, what he means by (saying) they need more cuts.
Q: House Speaker Boehner bypassed the Hastert Rule for the second time Tuesday on the Sandy recovery bill. Do you find yourself sympathetic with Boehner in his efforts to control his caucus? (Under the nonbinding Hastert Rule, the speaker only brings up for vote matters that a majority of his caucus supports.)
A: He's got to be careful that he doesn't lose his conference. He should listen to them. There is a sense if you're Speaker, you need to serve the people who elected you as Speaker. You should seek more than half their votes on major positions. If you're not consistently obtaining that kind of support, people question your ability to unite your caucus. But in our system, it's not a hard and fast rule. I don't think there was a bunch of complaints on the fiscal cliff vote. (The vote passed the House despite opposition from a majority of Republicans.)
The challenge for Republicans is the House and Senate leadership have got to start talking to the American people, and not just what goes on inside the chamber.
Q: Are there any changes you could support on gun control?
A: We'll look at it. When I was a United States Attorney, I had a gun program. We worked with local law enforcement and we had more prosecutions -- for an assistant U.S. Attorney -- for gun violations, than anybody in the country. Under this administration, gun prosecutions are down compared to the Bush years.
Q: So you favor Obama's proposed executive orders on increasing prosecutions?
A: If they focus on people likely to shoot somebody, yes. Criminals and thugs and the mentally ill and that sort of thing. What they want to focus on is restricting the ability of law-abiding citizens to get guns, and I'm not for that.
Q: Could you support restrictions on the size of the magazines?
A: I'll have to see what they say about that. That's obviously more political and psychological than it is substantive, in terms of impacting crime. Is it going to impact crime if the clip has nine instead of 16 rounds in it? Not much, I don't think. The numbers don't show the assault weapons ban had much impact.
Q: Do you support a ban on semi-automatic weapons?
A: I definitely would oppose a ban on semi-automatic weapons. The old Colt revolver is a semi-automatic weapon. If you start banning semi-automatic weapons, you've really banned the essence of gun ownership today. Normal people are coming up to me expressing concerns about banning guns. They don't like it. "Don't let them take our guns," that's what they say. And they mean it.
Contact Eric Fleischauer at 256-340-2435 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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